March Around Lake Estes

In March I spent a lot of time on the 3.75 mile Lake Estes Loop Trail as part of my fitness program, as well as to practice shlepping and shooting with our big lens. I have now boosted my daily walk to an even 4 miles by starting from the Visitor Center, which, although I appreciate the nice restrooms, should have been built as an ice skating rink...  but that is another story.

It was fun to watch Winter loosen its grip a little each day as the streams flowed more freely under melting ice and snow. March had no shortage of wind, and interesting formations created by water blown against the rocks and logs often caught my eye.
Coyote slipping on the ice

One early morning while concentrating on finding the noisy little Nuthatches near the near the tip of the Matthews-Reeser Bird Sanctuary peninsula, I inadvertently approached a coyote at close range. We locked eyes. Wow! In that brief moment, it dawned on me that I actually held in my hands a camera with which I might take his picture. Ignoring the thin ice signs, he trotted off the peninsula across slick and slushy terrain and disappeared back into the woods, but not before I managed to get a few shots off.

American Dipper (aka water ouzel)
Most days I saw only birds. Gadwalls, Coots, American Widgeons and Green-winged Teals joined the Buffleheads, Goldeneyes and Redheads seen in February, and once I may have spotted a pair of Northern Pintails way out in the lake. The first Great Blue Heron I've seen in Estes flew overhead another morning. I happened upon the American Dipper frequently, usually near the same spot in Wapiti Meadows. Now I always walk a little off trail, ever hopeful to discover a nest. A Prairie Falcon seems to be spending a lot of time hunting from the high power towers and I've seen him circling over the meadows, too. I see Red-tailed Hawks often on my walks, but the best show was one sunny day when three of them swooped and played in the thermals.

Mountain Bluebird
Mike had been out of town for 10 days, and the day he got home, I saw my first Bluebird of the season, actually a pair of Mountain Bluebirds. The end of the month also brought Western Bluebirds and the occasional finch, and we both anxiously await the arrival of more songbirds and migratory water birds.

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